A Device Attached to the System is not Functioning

Every now and then, when I attempt to connect to my work machine using Remote Desktop, I encounter the following error:

A device attached to the system is not functioning.

Considering I have no special devices plugged in at work, the message always comes as a surprise. Multiple attempts to connect will simply result in the same message, forever blocking the connection.


The solution I found involves using Remote Desktop to connect to another machine at my work, and using that machine to resolve the problem. Let’s say PRIMARY is my primary work machine, and SECONDARY is a secondary machine I can access from home.

Here’s what I do to resolve the error:

  1. Log into SECONDARY with Remote Desktop, from my home machine.
  2. From within SECONDARY , I launch Remote Desktop again, and connect to PRIMARY.
  3. From within PRIMARY, I click Start > Log off, which will log off the user, and ultimately disconnect my Remote Desktop session.
  4. With the PRIMARY connection closed, I simply disconnect from SECONDARY using my home machine.

Once those steps are completed, I’m usually able to connect to PRIMARY directly from my home machine, without seeing the error. It seems that it has something to do with the user session, perhaps also combined with the operating system you are using to connect. If you can’t connect to SECONDARY, consider finding an alternative with an older operating system. In my case, SECONDARY ran Windows Server 2003, while PRIMARY ran Windows Vista Business.

  • RahimSurani


    1) Kill explorer of that session
    2) now you will be able to connect to this session
    3) Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc to launch Task Manager
    4) Click new task and run Explorer again

  • travis

    what about instances when the logged in session has no running process rahim?

  • pisboi

    Not that it is related to this problem, but for anyone googling the “A Device Attached to the System is not Functioning” when trying to install an MSI:
    The problem seemed to be that Windows was trying to use the 64-bit msiexec instead of the 32-bit.
    The resolution was to run “C:WindowsSysWOW64msiexec.exe /i “c:PathToMsi-file.msi”

    • Anton Theunissen

      RahimSurani thanks. My solution was to make a secondary user (RDP-enabled) account on ALPHA. That can be used to log into and restart the PC. I suppose you also “kill explorer from that session” when logged in to a secondary account. I’ll try it next time it occurs.

  • i am getting this error on windows 8